What Do Those TEST and RESET Buttons on My Outlet Actually Do?
Understanding your home’s GFCI outlets.October 10, 2019
Chances are, somewhere in your home, there is a plug or two that has little buttons labeled TEST and RESET in the center. And if you’ve ever wondered what that is all about, this is the blog post for you!
Basic BackgroundThe TEST and RESET buttons indicate that the plug offers ground fault protection. As a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet, it is designed to prevent electrical shock and is an important safety feature within your home. Since the introduction of GFCI outlets in the ‘70s, the number of electrocutions in the US has dropped dramatically and the National Electrical Code has come to require use of ground fault protection in specific rooms of the house where conditions increase risk of a ground fault occurrence, specifically places where exposure to moisture is possible such as kitchens and laundry rooms.
When a ground fault occurs, due to things like damaged wiring, water or an out-of-date tool, the energy being generated to run your electric saw or blender suddenly takes a detour from its intended path and could channel through conductive items you might be touching, things like metal utensils, the casing of certain appliances, or water. THIS WOULD BE VERY BAD.
To prevent injury (or worse) happening in case of a ground fault, GFCI outlets are engineered to monitor potentially dangerous changes in current. If something disrupts the electrical current – say a hand mixer falling into a sink – the outlet immediately cuts power to prevent the current making its way to you. Thank goodness.
About Those ButtonsSo, then what are the buttons for, you ask?
The TEST button is there to help you check and ensure the outlet is working properly. To be certain your GFCI outlet is prepared to protect in the case of a fault, just plug something in and hit TEST. Whatever device or appliance you plugged in should not work if the GFCI outlet is working properly. More modern GFCI outlets also come with self-testing capabilities, checking themselves automatically and using indicator lights or even alarms to let you know if there is a problem with your outlet. If you discover by test or indicator that the GFCI outlet is not working, you should have an electrician replace your outlet as soon as possible to comply with Electrical Codes and keep your family protected.
On the flip side so to speak, the RESET button is there so you can return power to the outlet after a test or trip has taken place. In the instance of following a real trip, only press RESET after you are sure the issue has been resolved – moisture has been dried, wires have been checked for fraying or loose connections, etc. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of time before it trips again.
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